West Coast port workers approve contract extension

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On Aug. 4, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced that its members have approved a three-year labor contract extension covering longshoremen at 29 U.S. West Coast ports. The extension, which comes well before the 2018 contract was set to expire, will likely suppress fears of a labor slowdown at the ports next summer. The Contract between the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association now runs through June 30 of 2022.

The union said the contract extension raises wages, maintains health benefits and increases pensions from 2019 through 2022. "During the past year we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides", ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said. The Pacific Maritime Association represents cargo carriers and terminal operators.

The early contract approval marks a stark contrast to 2014, when negotiations didn't start until May and the contract lapsed in July.

PMA president James McKenna called the contract extension "historic" and said it created "long-term certainty for West Coast ports and all stakeholders".

At the time, President Barack Obama sent Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to join the negotiations, and a tentative agreement was reached February 20, 2015 - nearly eight months after the prior labor contract had expired, according to the Maritime Law Association of the United States. Port congestion from the spat posed a threat to retail supply chains, according to the National Retail Federation.

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